SKY'S THE LIMIT

A perfectly-timed photo of the space station and the moon puts human achievements in perspective

The International Space Station is the size of a football field. But a stunning image by Spanish photographer Dani Caxete shows it as a tiny figure dwarfed by the moon—a jaw-dropping reminder of the magnificence of nature, and the persistence of human achievement.

The image is on the shortlist for the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year, an annual contest run by Britain’s Royal Greenwich Observatory. Caxete writes:

The International Space Station (ISS) whizzes across the dusky face of the Earth’s natural satellite, the Moon, whilst photographed in broad daylight. Shining with a magnitude of -3.5, the ISS was illuminated by the Sun at a height of 9º on the horizon. Like the Moon, the ISS receives solar rays in a similar way during its 15 orbits of the Earth a day, making it possible to see it when the Sun is still up. This is a real shot, with no composite or clipping in the process.

The sight of the moon—humanity’s first major conquest in space—alongside the space station makes one wonder where technology will take us next. Will we one day see spacecrafts orbiting the Earth the way we see commercials flights streak across the sky? Will a future settlement on the moon be visible from Earth?

Here are some other breathtaking shots from the contest’s finalists.

“Mr. Big Dipper”

“A stargazer observes the constellation of the Big Dipper perfectly aligned with the window of the entrance to a large glacier cave in Engadin, Switzerland. This is a panorama of two pictures, and each is a stack of another two pictures: one for the stars and another one for the foreground, but with no composing or time blending.”

Mr. Big Dipper © Nicholas Roemmelt
“Mr. Big Dipper” (Nicholas Roemmelt)

“Eastern Prominence”

“A large, searing hedgerow prominence extends from the surface of the Sun on 29 August 2016. There are a number of different prominence types that have been observed emanating from the Sun, and the hedgerow prominence is so called due the grouping of small prominences resembling rough and wild shrubbery.”

Eastern Prominence © Paul Andrew
Eastern Prominence © Paul Andrew (Paul Andrew)

“Crescent Moon over the Needles”

“The 7% waxing crescent Moon setting in the evening sky over the Needles Lighthouse at the western tip of the Isle of Wight. Despite the Moon being a thin crescent, the rest of its shape is defined by sunlight reflecting back from the Earth’s surface.”

Crescent Moon over the Needles © Ainsley Bennett
“Crescent Moon over the Needles” (Ainsley Bennett)

“Auroral Crown”

“During an astrophotography tour of the Murmansk region with Stas Korotkiy, an amateur astronomer and popularizer of astronomy in Russia, the turquoise of the Aurora Borealis swirls above the snow covered trees. Illuminated by street lamps, the trees glow a vivid pink forming a contrasting frame for Nature’s greatest lightshow.”

Auroral Crown © Yulia Zhulikova
“Auroral Crown” (Yulia Zhulikova)

A Battle We Are Losing

“The Milky Way rises ominously above a small radio telescope from a large array at Miyun Station, National Astronomical Observatory of China, in the suburbs of Beijing. The image depicts the ever-growing light pollution we now experience, which together with electromagnetic noise has turned many optical and radio observatories near cities both blind and deaf – a battle that inspired the photographer’s title of the shot. The image used a light pollution filter (iOptron L-Pro) and multiple frame stacking to get the most of the Milky Way out of the city light.”

A Battle We Are Losing © Haitong Yu
“A Battle We Are Losing” (Haitong Yu)

“NGC 7331 – The Deer Lick Group”

“NGC 7331 is an unbarred spiral galaxy found some 40 million light years away from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus. Of the group of galaxies known as the Deer Lick Group, NGC 7331 is the largest, and can be seen dominating the image whilst the smaller galaxies NGC 7335, NGC 7336, NGC 7337, NGC 7338 and NGC 7340 drift above it.”

NGC 7331 - The Deer Lick Group © Bernard Miller
NGC 7331 – The Deer Lick Group © Bernard Miller (Bernard Miller)
home our picks popular latest obsessions search